In the past 40 years, meditation has entered the mainstream of modern Western culture, and been prescribed by physicians and practiced by everyone from business executives, artists, and scientists to students, teachers, military personnel, and -- on a promising note -- politicians. Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan meditates every morning and has become a major advocate of mindfulness and meditation, as he describes in his book, A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit. Despite the growing popularity of meditation, prevailing misconceptions about the practice are a barrier that prevents many people from trying meditation and receiving its profound benefits for the body, mind, and spirit. Here are seven of the most common meditation myths, dispelled.
Myth #1: Meditation is difficult.
Truth: This myth is rooted in the image of meditation as an esoteric practice reserved only for saints, holy men, and spiritual adepts. In reality, when you receive instruction from an experienced, knowledgeable teacher, meditation is easy and fun to learn. The techniques can be as simple as focusing on the breath or silently repeating a mantra. One reason why meditation may seem difficult is that we try too hard to concentrate, we're overly attached to results, or we're not sure we are doing it right. In our experience at the Chopra Center, learning meditation from a qualified teacher is the best way to ensure that the process is enjoyable and you get the most from your practice. A teacher will help you understand what you're experiencing, move past common roadblocks, and create a nourishing daily practice.
Myth #2: You have to quiet your mind in order to have a successful meditation practice.
Truth: This may be the number one myth about meditation and is the cause of many people giving up in frustration. Meditation isn't about stopping our thoughts or trying to empty our mind -- both of these approaches only create stress and more noisy internal chatter. We can't stop or control our thoughts, but we can decide how much attention to give them. Although we can't impose quiet on our mind, through meditation we can find the quiet that already exists in the space between our thoughts. Sometimes referred to as "the gap," this space between thoughts is pure consciousness, pure silence, and pure peace. When we meditate, we use an object of attention, such as our breath, an image, or a mantra, which allows our mind to relax into this silent stream of awareness. When thoughts arise, as they inevitably will, we don't need to judge them or try to push them away. Instead, we gently return our attention to our object of attention. In every meditation, there are moments, even if only microseconds, when the mind dips into the gap and experiences the refreshment of pure awareness. As you meditate on a regular basis, you will spend more and more time in this state of expanded awareness and silence. Be assured that even if it feels like you have been thinking throughout your entire meditation, you are still receiving the benefits of your practice. You haven't failed or wasted your time. When my friend and colleague David Simon taught meditation, he would often tell students, "The thought I'm having thoughts may be the most important thought you have ever thought, because before you had that thought, you may not have even known you were having thoughts. You probably thought you were your thoughts." Simply noticing that you are having thoughts is a breakthrough because it begins to shift your internal reference point from ego mind to witnessing awareness. As you become less identified with your thoughts and stories, you experience greater peace and open to new possibilities.
Myth #3: It takes years of dedicated practice to receive any benefits from meditation.
Truth: The benefits of meditation are both immediate and long-term. You can begin to experience benefits the first time you sit down to meditate and in the first few days of daily practice. Many scientific studies provide evidence that meditation has profound effects on the mind-body physiology within just weeks of practice. For example, a landmark study led by Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital found that as little as eight weeks of meditation not only helped people experience decreased anxiety and greater feelings of calm; it also produced growth in the areas of the brain associated with memory, empathy, sense of self, and stress regulation. At the Chopra Center, we commonly hear from new meditators who are able to sleep soundly for the first time in years after just a few days of daily meditation practice. Other common benefits of meditation include improved concentration, decreased blood pressure, reduced stress and anxiety, and enhanced immune function. You can learn more about the benefits of meditation in a recent post, "Why Meditate?" on the Chopra Center blog.
Myth #4: Meditation is escapism.
Truth: The real purpose of meditation isn't to tune out and get away from it all but to tune in and get in touch with your true self -- that eternal aspect of yourself that goes beyond all the everchanging, external circumstances of your life. In meditation you dive below the mind's churning surface, which tends to be filled with repetitive thoughts about the past and worries about the future, into the still point of pure consciousness. In this state of transcendent awareness, you let go of all the stories you've been telling yourself about who you are, what is limiting you, and where you fall short -- and you experience the truth that your deepest self is infinite and unbounded. As you practice on a regular basis, you cleanse the windows of perception and your clarity expands. While some people do try to use meditation as a form of escape -- as a way to bypass unresolved emotional issues -- this approach runs counter to all of the wisdom teachings about meditation and mindfulness. In fact, there are a variety of meditation techniques specifically developed to identify, mobilize and release stored emotional toxicity. If you are coping with emotional upset or trauma, I recommend that you work with a therapist who can help you safely explore and heal the pain of the past, allowing you to return to your natural state of wholeness and love.
Myth #5: I don't have enough time to meditate.
Truth: There are busy, productive executives who have not missed a meditation in 25 years, and if you make meditation a priority, you will do it. If you feel like your schedule is too full, remember that even just a few minutes of meditation is better than none. We encourage you not to talk yourself out of meditating just because it's a bit late or you feel too sleepy. In life's paradoxical way, when we spend time meditating on a regular basis, we actually have more time. When we meditate, we dip in and out of the timeless, spaceless realm of consciousness... the state of pure awareness that is the source of everything that manifests in the universe. Our breathing and heart rate slow down, our blood pressure lowers, and our body decreases the production of stress hormones and other chemicals that speed up the aging process and give us the subjective feeling that we are "running out of time." In meditation, we are in a state of restful alertness that is extremely refreshing for the body and mind. As people stick with their meditation ritual, they notice that they are able to accomplish more while doing less. Instead of struggling so hard to achieve goals, they spend more and more time "in the flow" -- aligned with universal intelligence that orchestrates everything.
Myth #6: Meditation requires spiritual or religious beliefs.
Truth: Meditation is a practice that takes us beyond the noisy chatter of the mind into stillness and silence. It doesn't require a specific spiritual belief, and many people of many different religions practice meditation without any conflict with their current religious beliefs. Some meditators have no particular religious beliefs, or are atheist or agnostic. They meditate in order to experience inner quiet and the numerous physical and mental health benefits of the practice -- including lowered blood pressure, stress reduction, and restful sleep. The original reason that I started meditating was to help myself stop smoking. Meditation helps us to enrich our lives. It enables us to enjoy whatever we do in our lives more fully and happily -- whether that is playing sports, taking care of our children, or advancing in our career.
Myth #7: I'm supposed to have transcendent experiences in meditation.
Truth: Some people are disappointed when they don't experience visions, see colors, levitate, hear a choir of angels, or glimpse enlightenment when they meditate. Although we can have a variety of wonderful experiences when we meditate, including feelings of bliss and oneness, these aren't the purpose of the practice. The real benefits of meditation are what happens in the other hours of the day when we're going about our daily lives. When we emerge from our meditation session, we carry some of the stillness and silence of our practice with us, allowing us to be more creative, compassionate, centered, and loving to ourselves and everyone we encounter.
As you begin or continue your meditation journey, here are some other guidelines that may help you on your way:
• Have no expectations. Sometimes the mind is too active to settle down. Sometimes it settles down immediately. Sometimes it goes quiet, but the person doesn't notice. Anything can happen.
• Be easy with yourself. Meditation isn't about getting it right or wrong. It's about letting your mind find its true nature.
• Don't stick with meditation techniques that aren't leading to inner silence. Find a technique that resonates with you. There are many kinds of mantra meditation, including the Primordial Sound Meditation practice taught at the Chopra Center. Or simply follow the in and out of your breathing, not paying attention to your thoughts at all. The mind wants to find its source in silence. Give it a chance by letting go.
• Make sure you are alone in a quiet place to meditate. Unplug the phone. Make sure no one is going to disturb you.
• Really be there. If your attention is somewhere else, thinking about your next appointment, errand or meal, of course you won't find silence.
For more information on our Meditation Classes, visit: https://www.tammybiton.com.au/meditationclasseswollondilly.html
Deepak Chopra is co-author of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-Being and founder of The Chopra Foundation source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepak-chopra/meditation-myths_b_2823629.html
We've all heard about the Law of Attraction - right? Dream and envisage anything you desire and it will manifest itself. Well, I don't have a bright Red Porsche parked in my driveway! And the truth is, I don't dream of having one either!
Firstly, I'd like to take a moment to explain the difference between a dream and a goal - because they are not the same thing! The dictionary defines dreams as "a succession of images, thoughts, or emotions passing through the mind" or "a vision... indulged in while awake". A goal is stated as "the aim or object towards which an endeavour is directed".
So when you think about having a dream - think of a small child. They may dream of being an astronaut or a fireman or a ballerina or in my son's case, a Snake Catcher. There is no real awareness as to how they might achieve that! No considerations of the training that they may need to undertake or the risks involved is that chosen profession, no limiting beliefs that they can't do that or that they are not good enough. That's just what they want to be. And when you consider a goal, think of someone wanting to lose 5kg or a business wanting to make a million dollar turnover. They are clearly stated (and they should be realistic and attainable).
I encourage all of my clients to have a dream! And create a clear vision of those dreams. Whether it be health, career, financial, spiritual or any other area of life... allow your mind to visit what it would look like. What would you see, hear and feel if that was your reality right now? How would it be? A dream or vision board is a great way to do this. Collect images and words or quotes that inspire you. Why would you do this?
Assuming you have a car... let me take you back to the time BEFORE you got your new car. You were thinking about what you wanted, maybe you did a little research... I wonder how many of the make and model you ended up purchasing you saw on the road? Now fast forward to that moment you started driving your new car. I bet suddenly it seemed that car was everywhere! Or perhaps you had driven down the same street a million times and never noticed that particular shop, until you needed it! And suddenly you wonder if that has really been there the whole time?
Your brain receives 2,000,000 bits of information per second! That's right - TWO MILLION! But it distorts, deletes and generalises that information down to 7-9 pieces. These distortions, deletions and generalisations are based on the filters that you have established - your beliefs, your values, language, patterns and programming and past experiences. So subconsciously, your mind decides what you will pay attention to and what you will ignore, without any conscious awareness of this happening.
But just like when you got that new car, you updated what was within your world and therefore began seeing more of that car - you can bring new dreams in so that your mind can expand its "search data" and begin noticing opportunities that may have always been there... you just hadn't noticed them! And of course, sometimes you need to work on your beliefs or values and a great coach can help you to overcome all of those things.
For now though, I'd like to return to the idea of a Goal. Now in my clinic, I don't work with people's dreams. I work to help them achieve goals. So a goal could very well be one of the steps toward your dream. For example, if you want to be a multi-millionaire - your first goal might be to earn more money. Or if you dream of being super healthy and being fully inspired in that area of life - your goal might first be to run a marathon or lose that 5 (or more) kilo of fat.
Unlike dreams, your goals need to be realistic and achievable. You need not know all of the steps that you need to take to achieve it - but you do need to identify that first step. Your goals should be measurable and evidence based - how will you know that you have achieved it?
In NLP, we use Well-Formed-Outcomes to set up goals. So if you have a goal, sit down and take some time to answer the following:
What is it that you want (this should be stated in the positive). What will it look like, feel like, sound like when you have this?
When? Where and with Whom will you have this?
Why? For what reason do you want this? What is your intention in wanting this?
PROCESSES / HOW
How will you do this? Have you ever done this before? What resources do you need (eg. help from someone else, obtaining more knowledge, a gym membership etc)? What resources do you already have to help you achieve this (e.g. Skills, knowledge, experience, tools)?
Is there any negative impact on you or those around you of having this and achieving this goal?
Once you have done this... go back and consider, what is the very first step? What action do you need to take right now to achieve the goal? You don't necessarily need to know all of the steps - perhaps you need to get the assistance of experts or obtain more knowledge in order to determine the other steps. For example, if you have a strong financial goal - you may need to consult a Financial Planner or Wealth Advisor or if you have a health goal - you may need to work with a Trainer or Nutritionist.
All you need to know... is what is that first step?
All you need to do... is take it!
Once you've taken the first step - determine the next step... once you know... take it... and then the next one and the next one...
The Law of Cause and Effect states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Every cause has an effect, and every effect has a cause. Cause Causes Certain Effect. (C > E) Your results are the effects of your thinking and behaviour. When I say Results I mean every single thing in your life. There are Reasons (for not getting results) or Results. If you think about it any outcome that you created in your life must have come from a behaviour that you produced. There can’t be more on the effect side than it is on the cause side.
Focus on what you want, i.e. positive thoughts, because by Law that is what will come back to you… cause and effect… Be at cause for what you want, and you will get the effect. All thought is creative, so be careful what you wish for... you will get it.
How empowering is it to be on the Cause side of life and how disempowering is it to be on the effect side. Think about when you’re 90 or 140 years old, how valuable will those excuses be?
Accept responsibility and look for the learning, rather than hide behind your pride and reject the fact that you are the Cause for your behaviour which causes Results in your life. You see the moment you reject the Cause, you close yourself off to the. And you will probably continue to create the same results, until you learn what you need in order to grow and expand.
Learnings means Resources, they are strategies, decisions, beliefs that you can utilize in the future so that whatever happened in the past won’t repeat itself. You need to learn in order to grow; your comfort zone is living in the illusion that you and everything can stay the way it is. In nature nothing can stay the way it is, you’re either busy growing or dying.
Are you on the effect side, with no power to do or change anything? Or are you on the Cause side, where you are in charge of your life and the results that you are creating. You can’t play half way, you are either on the CAUSE side for every single result that you created in your life, and I mean everything. Because the moment you exclude any result you step onto the Effect side. You become a hypocrite, changing the rules where you see fit.
“Which side of the Cause and Effect equation are you on?”
What do you see in this picture?
Our brains receive over 2 million bits of information every second... and we can only process between 5-9 bits of that information. Our past experiences, beliefs, values, language (what NLP calls our 'filters') determines what information we take in and how we PERCEIVE that information.
So, it can be said that we only ever really see part of the picture or "not the whole story". When what you are interpreting (or what you see) isn't working for you. Try one of the following:
1) Imagine stepping into the situation and seeing it from someone else's perspective - what would they see, hear, feel? What about a fly on the wall? What picture would they see?
2) Ask yourself, what else could it mean? Keep asking yourself this question until you get at least 3 or 4 other interpretations of what it could mean..
By the way... did you see both the frog and the horse in the picture above?
Do you know someone who is eternally optimistic? Do you admire that trait? The good news is that a positive attitude can be cultivated! You too can choose to see the opportunities presented in the challenges life delivers and find the goodness in the most difficult of people! It just takes practice!
Studies have shown that adopting an attitude of gratitude can help you to be more emotionally resilient, boost your mood and improve your general well-being... and there are many more added benefits.
Set a goal to practice gratitude every day for 30 days and see the benefits for yourself! Not sure where to start? Try one of the following:
Enjoy the benefits! If you have other ways that you like to express gratitude, please share them with us.